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Thesis Proposal Sample

The Effect of Classroom Management on
High School Academic Achievement

by June Kaminski, RN MSN

Classroom management first became a popular topic in education during the 1970's and 1980's, (Tavares, 1996 and Butchart, 1995). The focus in these early years was primarily on behavior management, used to control and shape students' behavior to conform to school rules. Consequences, rewards and punishment were used to guide students to conform to the rules chosen by the classroom teacher. Classroom management using an authoritarian or punitive approach did repress disorderly behavior, but it did not foster student growth or allow the acquisition of more sophisticated modes of learning, such as critical thinking and reflection (Jones, 1995).

In the 1990's, a new paradigm of classroom management emerged, based on the democratic process, humanism, and consideration for diversity. Classroom management developed beyond a set of educational techniques to become ",...a complex process in which an environment is constructed in an ongoing, reciprocal manner," (Adler, 1996, p.34). This process included dialogue between teachers and students, reflection on past and current experiences, and looking at how one's behavior affected others in the environment (Schneider, 1996). Rules were mutually agreed upon by the entire class, making them socially valid to the students which provided structure, and helped to develop a productive classroom environment (McGinnis, 1995).

Classroom management in high schools often lagged behind strategies used in elementary school classrooms. All too often, classroom management systems built on trust, caring, and support in the lower grades were replaced with compliance and obedience systems once a student entered high school, (Freiberg, 1995). Even in the 1990's, the majority of high school classrooms have been managed by models of teacher control and student obedience.

Sheets and Gay (1996), described the widespread discipline problems and disruptive behaviors common in high school classrooms. Overcrowded classrooms, made up of diverse groups of students of varying ethnicity and socioeconomic characteristics, showed extreme levels of disruptions. Canter (1997) estimated that high school teachers spent thirty to fifty percent of their in-class time handling behavior problems. Most of these problems were relatively minor disruptions which originated in the classroom, and were often interpersonal in nature. The disruptive student might ",....challenge teacher authority, interrupt, talk out of turn, respond loudly, argue, react emotionally, or socialize in class, (Sheets and Gay,1996, p.86)

Silencing and control of the student's behavior have routinely been used to deal with disruptive situations by removing students from the class, along with verbal reprimands, intimation, or demands for compliance. High school students often reacted to the teachers' attempts at behavior management by responding aggressively, or by employing silence and absence strategies. The student often withdrew from classroom discussions, neglected their assignments, cut class, were truant which usually led to suspension or even expulsion from the school. These subsequent behaviors inevidently led to low academic achievement, and feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in the student.

To break this cycle of teacher control and student compliance patterns, a proactive classroom management process was adopted by some teachers, (McGinnis, 1995). The proactive process focused on fostering student involvement and cooperation in decision-making, setting ground rules, and problem-solving to establish a productive learning environment. Involved students appreciated the classroom environment when they felt accepted as individuals with unique differences and worthwhile opinions. Classroom management which was culturally responsive, and based on developing connectedness and community fostered more class participation, self-discipline, and higher expectations by both the students and the teacher. Teachers who managed democratic, cooperative classrooms enjoyed students who were more involved, responsible, and academically successful, (Evans, 1996, and Freiberg, 1995).

Freiberg, (1995) described multiple studies done in Texan schools ranging from kindergarten to grade 12 (with a total of more than 10,000 students) that incorporated democratic, caring classroom management strategies. These schools had forty to sixty percent less discipline referrals to the principal's office, and the students made statistically significant gains in achievement, even winning awards for the first time, for academic excellence. Democratic classroom management was viewed as a positive process, affirmed the students' individuality, set mutual realistic classroom limits and guidelines, and built cooperation without using coercion (Chemlynski, 1996). A democratic social environment in the classroom gave the students the opportunity to pursue academic goals and to create mutually agreed upon standards for academic and behavioral performance (Wentzel, 1989).

The literature seems to suggest that democratic, humanistic classroom management fosters higher academic achievement. Research to investigate this relationship could spark more interest in using democratic management strategies in high school classrooms.

Problem Statement

Classroom management based on coercion and behavior control is linked to retaliatory behavior disruptions leading to conflict, punishment, and substandard academic achievement. Classroom management based on democratic, humanistic processes is linked with greater student participation, cooperation, and motivation to achieve academically. High schools are routinely managed by teacher control and student compliance models. Further research that supports the use of a democratic classroom management paradigm could help educators to understand the potential link with academic achievement.


The purpose of this research study is to determine whether high school students in well - managed classrooms experience greater academic achievement than students in poorly - managed classrooms.


High school students in well-managed classrooms experience significantly greater academic achievement than students in poorly - managed classrooms.

Null Hypothesis

High school students in well-managed classrooms do not experience significantly greater academic achievement than students in poorly - managed classrooms.

Operational Definitions

Well - managed Classroom. Proactive, democratic, humanistic classroom environment in which the teacher and students mutually set rules that are conducive to cooperative and relevant learning. Learning experiences are planned, incorporating cultural context, diversity, and allowing for a variety of individual and group processes. Intrinsic motivation and self-discipline are cultivated using encouragement, caring, and collaboration.

Poorly - managed Classroom. Teacher controlled environment structured to elicit student compliance to fixed rules, often through coercion. Authoritative management used to enforce classroom structure, using reward and punishment in response to student behaviors. Extrinsic motivation and external discipline applied using praise or reprimand, silencing, and isolation tactics to remove disruptive students from the classroom environment.

Academic Achievement. Evidence of knowledge acquisition, literacy, and learning assessed through student assignments, class participation, test scores, and individual and cumulative grades.


Sample. High school students, from grade nine to twelve, primarily in North American schools, who have participated in published studies selected from the education literature.

Research Design. A meta-analysis research design will be used to integrate the findings from several studies, selected from journal articles, books, theses, dissertations, and investigator - generated databases. The outcomes of the selected studies will be described and statistically calculated. to summarize the effect of classroom management on high school academic achievement. A meta-analysis design was chosen because it allows for generalizations across studies, and can reveal useful patterns in the combined study data (Glass, 1981).

Data Collection . Outcome and raw data will be collected from published studies to compare the effect size of the academic achievement of students in well - managed classrooms with students in poorly - managed classrooms.

Data Analysis. Descriptive and parametric statistics will be calculated and summarized. A one-tailed t -test with a 0.05 level of significance and a power of .80 will be calculated to determine if a significant difference in the dependent variable, (academic achievement) occurred in high school students from well-managed classrooms compared to students from poorly- managed classrooms (independent variables).


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